A series that provided all the excitement and theatrics one could expect from a battle for a division title ended Wednesday with the Astros grabbing a 5-4 walk-off win sending the Athletics back to Oakland 2-1/2 out of first place.
For the first time in three days, it was Houston that jumped out to an early lead, dropping a two-spot on Trevor Cahill in the first inning. But as was the case both Monday and Tuesday, an early lead meant exactly zilch and the rubber match of the final series between the two top teams in the American League West wasn’t decided until a Tyler White walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth.
With the win, the Astros (82-51) finish the season series having taken 12 of 19 from the A’s (80-54).
Another day meant another Oakland starter suffering an implosion in the middle innings, this time Cahill who was far from sharp out of the gates.
The Oakland starter allowed three straight singles to start the game. But after a sacrifice fly and his first walk of the game Cahill finally grasped his knee-high command nailing his location with a sinker and coaxing an inning-ending double play from Yuli Gurriel and escaped with the damage limited to two runs.
Cahill kept control of that command until the fourth inning when he was suddenly unable to find the zone, walking Gurriel to lead off. By the time the fourth was done, Cahill, like Brett Anderson and Edwin Jackson before him, was unable to get through the fifth having yielded four runs on five hits and a season high six walks.
The home-and-road splits were separated even further with Cahill’s second-straight road roughing. Aside from the obvious — the record, 4-0 at home and 1-3 on the road, and ERA, 0.85 at home and 7.02 on the road — Cahill’s walks-per-nine discrepancy is incredibly troubling. He has walked 12 in Oakland and, after his six Wednesday, 21 in nine starts away from the East Bay.
A positive, though, is that three of Cahill’s final five starts — if manager Bob Melvin doesn’t choose to (or need to) alter the rotation — will come at the Oakland Coliseum. And with the slightest bit of tweaking (resting the 10-year veteran two extra days in mid-September) the A’s could align their staff to get Cahill on the mound all five times at home.
Much like the abrupt disturbances in control suffered by the Oakland starters in all three games of the series, Houston reliever Brad Peacock lost the strike zone himself in the seventh, walking three and hitting Stephen Piscotty on the hand.
He stayed in the game, and the hit-by-pitch brought home the tying run. But the A’s were left with a sour taste in their mouths when Matt Olson and Nick Martini were each retired to leave the bases jammed. Making matters worse, Piscotty may have been the exact man Melvin wanted up with a chance to pull ahead as the right fielder had been the producer of the majority of his offense.
Piscotty turned a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead, following an RBI single by Jed Lowrie, dropping a fly ball just inside the foul line and just shy of the Crawford Boxes in left for a two-run double in the third. The double was No. 36 on the season for Piscotty, a career high.
Oakland’s inability to cash in came back to haunt when White took Jeurys Familia deep to left with one down in the ninth to end the game, and season series. The A’s will now rely on other teams to top Houston with 28 games left on their schedule and 2-1/2 games between them and the top of the division.